Picture this: Halfway through a text convo with your friend, they stop replying. Which causes you to re-read all your messages, wonder what you said wrong, and feel like you've been punched in the gut. That’s what rejection sensitive dysphoria can feel like. It’s a term that you might have seen on your FYP — #RSD has garnered more than 160 million views at the time of publication. But is it a real medical condition — or something the internet made up?
What is rejection sensitive dysphoria?
Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) is when someone feels an overwhelming sense of emotional pain when they sense rejection or criticism. Sense, being the key word. Because the other person involved in the situation might not have been criticizing or rejecting the person experiencing RSD. Example: Forgetting to return a phone call or a change in tone. In some cases, it can also cause a physical reaction, as if you’ve been punched in the chest.
So is rejection sensitive dysphoria a real mental health disorder?
To people who experience RSD, the feeling is very real. (See: the more than 27 million TikToks on #rejectionsensitivedysphoria.) But rejection sensitive dysphoria isn’t an official medical term or diagnosis.
That said, it’s thought to be an unofficial symptom of ADHD or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One 2019 study found that children with ADHD were more sensitive to peer rejection than children without ADHD. Another 2022 study found that people with traits of ASD were more likely to experience rejection sensitivity.
You don’t have to have ADHD or ASD to experience RSD, though. It’s also common for people who experienced frequent childhood rejection or criticism.
What are rejection sensitive dysphoria symptoms?
If you experience RSD, you may…
Become easily embarrassed or self-conscious
Constantly worry about social rejection
Experience a heightened reaction (including a sense of feeling it in your body) to perceived rejection
Struggle to regulate your emotions
Struggle with low self-esteem
Have a tendency to be a people-pleaser
Be a perfectionist
Is there rejection sensitive dysphoria treatment?
Because RSD isn't an official medical condition or diagnosis, there's no official treatment for it. That said, there are a few things that may help manage RSD:
Therapy. The right therapist can help you manage your emotions and response to perceived rejection.
Go ahead and add RSD to the list of things TikTok taught us. Because for people who have been experiencing rejection sensitive dysphoria their whole lives, having a name may already make it easier to cope with.
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